An update on the FERC proceeding concerning the licensing of Kerr Dam to Northwestern Energy:

Late last year, Northwestern Energy announced its planned purchase of 11 Montana dams, including Kerr Dam, expected to be transferred to the CSKT in September of 2015.  This move raised more than a few eyebrows, as one has to wonder why Northwestern would “purchase Kerr dam” as part of this package, and then turn around and sell it to the CSKT in short order.  We have since learned that Northwestern will be acting only as a “transfer agent” in that transaction.  All of this paves the way for the CSKT purchase and takeover of Kerr Dam in September 2015.

In early June, Senator Verdell Jackson and Lake County separately filed motions to intervene on the licensing of Kerr Dam to Northwestern Energy.  Those documents can be found here:

Lake County Motion to Intervene
Senator Jackson’s Motion to Intervene

On June 17, 2014  PPL Montana filed an objection to Senator Jackson and Lake County’s motions to intervene on the licensing of Kerr Dam to NorthWestern Energy.  PPL Montana mainly objected saying that the parties did not have standing in this proceeding and did not speak to the issue at hand– the fitness of NorthWestern to hold and operate the project according to the terms of the project license.

On Monday June 30th, Senator Jackson responded to PPL’s objection stating:

…..the intervention of Senator Jackson was initiated precisely to ensure the public was able to participate in these licensing proceedings and the intervention represents at its core the vital role of the public interest in FERC matters related specifically to the transfer of this license, and for the additional reasons presented below, Senator Jackson again respectfully requests that the Commission grant his Motion to Intervene…

Senator Jackson’s goal is to ensure that the factual history and federal statutes related to the construction of Kerr Dam and the Flathead Irrigation and Power Project and the protections for the successful operation of the irrigation project are presented, and that the public interest of the many parties he speaks for in his document continue to be served, regardless of the party that ultimately owns and operates the dam.

Senator Jackson’s response to PPL’s objection included reference to and a copy of the Tribes’ lawsuit filed against “everyone” in February 2014.  A part of the Tribes’ lawsuit is the challenge to the authority of existing federal laws which formed the basis for the development of irrigation and power on the reservation.  Kerr Dam–in fact five power projects–were authorized as early as the 1908 amendment to the Flathead Allottment Act. Land for these power projects was withdrawn under federal reclamation laws.  If the Tribe is challenging the very basis of the laws that built Kerr Dam, what standing should they have to either own or operate Kerr Dam?

His response to FERC on this matter can be found here:  June 30, 2014 FERC Response by Senator Verdell Jackson.  We talked to the  Lake County Commissioners and at this time, they will not be responding to PPL Montana’s objection to their motion to intervene.

Please stay tuned for additional developments on this issue as they become available.

MONTANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

There are two sides to this coin, one is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s licensing of the dam to parties who operate the project.  The other side is the Montana Public Service Commission.  They are in the process of reviewing documents and other information related to the sale of the dams by PPL to Northwestern.  Their website says:

PSC Considering Northwestern Energy’s Proposed Acquisition of PPL-Montana Dams

PSC Commissioners recently completed 17 listening sessions throughout Montana, where they gathered public comment on NorthWestern Energy’s Application for approval of the acquisition of PPL Montana’s hydroelectric generating facilities. Citizens may still provide comment by utilizing the “Comment on Proceedings” link on the left side of this homepage.

The PSC’s formal hearing on the matter is currently scheduled to begin on July 8th in Helena.

THE MONTANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION WILL BE HOLDING EVIDENTIARY HEARINGS ON NORTHWESTERN ENERGY’S PURCHASE OF THE DAM STARTING ON TUESDAY JULY 8, 2014 AT 9:00 A.M. IN THE OLD SUPREME COURT CHAMBERS, 1301 EAST 6TH AVENUE, ROOM 303, IN THE CAPITOL BUILDING, HELENA MONTANA, AND CONTINUE DAY TO DAY AS NECESSARY.

View the docket for the PSC hearings at this link.

Stay tuned for additional details of both the FERC and the PSC proceedings.

Update:  On Tuesday July 8th, FERC granted Senator Jackson’s Motion to Intervene.  Details here.

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